Does Science Support Meditation for Pain Management?
In a word, yes. The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program created by Jon Kabat-Zinn demonstrated remarkable benefits for reducing chronic pain and depression. I personally have found that this approach has helped me to reduce my anxiety, improve my quality of life, and manage my pain.
Researchers investigated the effect of MBSR programs for participants with mixed chronic pain conditions and the significance of at-home practice for chronic pain management. The study measured results in terms of bodily pain, quality of life, and psychological symptoms for each chronic pain condition (neck/back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic headache, and two or more coexisting conditions). The researchers discovered that the degree of benefit of participating in mindfulness programs varied depending on the chronic pain condition, but that overall improvements were seen in almost every category.
Similar results were found in a study of the effects of participating in an MBSR course for people with fibromyalgia. Significantly, the researchers interviewed about half of the original participants from the mindfulness training group three years later and found sustained long-term benefits among those who continued their mindfulness practice.
Finally, many people with chronic pain experience anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation programs have been found to have "broad-spectrum anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects and decrease general psychological distress" (Marchand, 2012).
How Can I Learn to Meditate?
- Ask your doctor for a referral to a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course in your community or find a therapist who uses Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy.
- Learn online via the Palouse Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction online course – a scientifically proven program to reduce pain and stress.
- Read The Mindfulness Solution to Pain Relief, a comprehensive book describing a mindfulness program for pain by expert Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix.
- Use a guided audio program like John Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief. The program uses mindfulness meditation for pain management.
- Read the original landmark book on using mindfulness meditation for stress relief, pain, and illness:Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- Learn meditation using a free app on your phone. Two of my favorites include the Insight Timer and The Meaning of Life Experiment.